Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! Thanks for dropping by for this week's Thursday Thirteen. Since I'm very busy, preparing for my trip to the US next week and wrapping up all the work on 27 Stages
, I thought I'd share a few pics which have inspired me throughout the long slog from start to finish.So, yeah, it's a blog of cyclist photos. *clears throat*Anyhoo... Please, allow me to present to you
Thirteen Photos Which Inspired 27 Stages!
A rider cleans off post-race in the famous Paris-Roubaix velodrome shower hall.
Philippe Gilbert's legs after winning a stage of the Vuelta a Espana.
I'm endlessly amazed at how closely they can ride together in the group.
A peek inside a team bus during the Giro d'Italia. The "crash pad" for Alta VeloCidad's bus is based on this shot and a few other team buses I've found online.
This is *literally* the moment where the story started taking shape in my head. As I watched Cancellara receive the maillot jaune, I was speaking to my husband on the phone (he was in Italy, I was in the US). When the camera panned out and showed Cancellara on the podium, I said, without thinking, "I want to lick his legs." My husband didn't miss a beat and said "If you can catch him, go right ahead." That moment, combined with the team politics on display by the Astana riders (specifically Contador and Armstrong) led to the creation of 27 Stages.
Fabian Cancellara's legs as he stands atop the Paris-Roubaix podium after winning the race in 2010.
This is one of my all-time favorite photos, and even now, looking at it makes me want to write a story for it.
There is a scene in 27 Stages which was written before I saw this photo, but which mentions a photo Abby takes over her shoulder without even looking, after sensing someone is watching her. When she looks at it later, she finds Federico was in the crowd after all. This is *literally* the sort of image I imagined her capturing.
Riding in the rain isn't just wet, but cold, too. No wonder they all look so miserable, eh?
In my next life, I want to come back as a fly so I can spy on the boys in the bus.
This year's Milan-Sanremo race proved that there is nothing - absolutely *nothing* - I can write which will ever compete with real life. But I will keep trying.
Cancellara falls to the ground after winning this year's Paris-Roubaix by a bike length.
And there you have them: Thirteen Photos Which Inspired 27 Stages.
Of course, there were many, many more photos than this to inspire me since 2009. I simply can't share them all, though.
Which is a bit of a shame, really.
And I know I owe you at least one more pic, so...
I hope this will do.
Gilberto Simoni. Cyclist.
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! It's time for another Thursday Thirteen, and this week I have a special treat for everyone. You see, back in 2008-9, I had the pleasure of meeting a number of good writers on the Harper-Collins Authonomy website. I read many great books while they were still in their development stage, but there was one book in particular which stood out in my estimation. One, a psychological thriller (which is not a genre I normally read), was so good, I read all of the available sample and asked for more of it. I was generously given the still-incomplete manuscript to read at my leisure. To this day, it is the only book I've managed to read while sitting at my computer.Well, now, that book - called Affinities - is available for purchase, along with another thriller, Subculture.
Both are well worth a read, but you might also want to get to know the author a little better, first.
So please sit back, relax and enjoy this interview with the lovely and talented (and former Authonomite), Chris Hollis
Thirteen Questions for Chris Hollis, Author
1) So, Chris - tell me something about yourself.
Well, I’m a mid-thirties writer, fighting off life while I try to make my mark. Writing is the one job in entertainment where you can still be considered at the start of your career in your thirties. Many of the greats didn’t reach their stride until their kids were all grown up (not that I have any).
2) When did you first get bitten by the writing bug?
That’s not so easy to pin down. Winding back the clock, I was originally an aspiring (failed) cartoonist, then a director-without-a-camera, which turned into a screenwriter. Book writing evolved some point in my early twenties. I dabble. It’s always been one of my problems – disciplined, but rarely focussed.
3) Tell me about your books.
I have two available as of 2013 – Subculture
. Both are thrillers, and fast, but the similarity ends there. Subculture
is an action-packed, breakneck, A-to-B kind of affair, whereas Affinities
is a good deal more complex. Even I can’t remember all the different threads I wove into it. Every inanimate object has a specific pathway through the novel, developing in the reader’s eye, something like a character.4) Which book was the greater challenge to write?
. That kind of detail takes time to get right. After six years of putting it together, I just wanted to write a nice linear plot, something you could read on a sun lounger in a couple of days. That’s Subculture
. Still, both are child’s play compared to a couple I have on my desktop. Ten years hasn’t been enough to call them finished...5) How much research do you do when you're writing?
Copious and endless. Google images helps me to write descriptions, then I look up sunset times, weather forecasts, road names, people names. You can’t afford not to research every last little detail. It also helps to write Q&As as you go along, to remind yourself what the overriding point of the novel is. Then you can research your own research!6) What genre do you prefer to read? What are your favorite books in that genre?
I’m into soft sci-fi and paranormal. Different genres, but they boil down to the same thing – an ordinary protagonist versus a strange adversary. Giant monsters and spooks. Think Triffids, Martians, vampires in a 1990s sense. Vampires are a bit different now, I feel. Less edgy, less fun.
You can’t afford not to research every last little detail.
7) What made you decide to be an Indie author?
I would have baulked at the concept ten years ago, determined to follow in the footsteps of the people who inspired me. Then one day I realised it should be the readers who decide what they like, and nobody else. So now I’m out there, along with two billion other authors, walking the fine line between shameless self-promotion, and blindly hoping to get noticed.8) When you're writing, do you need noise or silence?
Great question. Silence, and it’s a bone of contention. When I’m doing a first draft, ambient noise is acceptable, but when it comes to doing that perfect paragraph – I mean the one where every word just flows poetically – it has to be silent like the grave for miles around. Hence why my output isn’t higher. One book a year is hard enough as it is when you struggle to concentrate like I do.9) What's your typical writing day like?
Few and far between, really. Sometimes, I stay late in the office and pace up and down, proof reading, lapping up the solitude. But those rare pajama days amount to maybe seven hours of writing, and five of procrastination. They’re fantastic for getting the house clean!10) Where did the ideas for your books come from/what inspired them?
Someone once said to me “think of a terrorist”, and I had the image I think most people would – a Middle-Eastern bearded man, with a vendetta that many Westerners perhaps wouldn’t understand. I didn’t like the stereotype, and so I decided to make terrorists who were homegrown, but still organised en-masse. The other ground, I felt, had been over trodden. [note: that book became Subculture
, at conception, was a one-man play. Every chapter was supposed be a different night in the same location, with just one character. Turns out that would be boring as hell, so I scrapped the idea as I learned how much a story needs both dialogue, and autonomy. You can still see the roots in the first five chapters, though.
11) Say your books take off and you start earning Stephen King money: What is the first thing you purchase?
Remember the speedboat David Beckham rode along the Thames, holding the Olympic torch? I heard they couldn’t sell it. I’d have that. There were lights shining into the water jets that made it look all futuristic.
12) Give me a completely random fact about yourself.
I was the one who left the office window open overnight. Feels good to clear the air.
13) Any final words of advice or declarations to make?
It seems to me that every writer around is part of a gold rush for the ebook market right now, with many struggling to get as many books out there as quickly as they can. My advice is relax. Better to have three great books than six that are merely okay, right? You’ll be tagged with those books for the rest of your life (and then beyond). The other tip is go sit in a sauna. Quiet thinking time, and also nice and warm.
No eye candy today (well, unless you count Chris himself) but drop by tomorrow for a tasty treat!
Ciao for now!
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! Sorry about the hiccup posting last week - by which I mean, no TT last Thursday - but I had a good reason (don't I always?). I've been working hard to get things done, writing-wise, and while I'm still lagging behind, I made some time this week to share another sampling of my biggest WiP ever.
So, with your kind indulgence, I'd like to share
13 Snippets from 27 Stages!
Around me the spectators waved flags and signs and cheered – not only for their favorites, but for every rider coming in. All at once, there were excited shouts and piercing whistles all around. Everyone turned to watch the giant screens on the sides of the road. Renard, the rider Charles thought looked so angry, had cleared the second checkpoint in record time. He was presently burning up the road on the descents out of the park, occasionally leaving the less-daring motorcycle cameramen behind. They weren't willing to take the curves at the same rate of speed.
Clearing a bend in the road to fly down to the straightaway beyond, Renard shot past a rider who'd left the start house a full two minutes ahead of him. The next switchbacks in the road made the crowd gasp, and my heart pounded so hard I could scarcely breathe. Finally he swept past yet another rider and out onto somewhat more open road.
The crowd tensed, watching along the road for him. On the screen another dramatic scene played out. Renard had just surpassed the time of his teammate and fan favourite, Heinrich Brunn – quite easily, by the look of it – and was now making his way toward the finish. The seconds which separated them began to expand: Brunn's time was five seconds longer, ten, twenty. The standings on the screen shifted accordingly. Renard rose higher and higher, from fourth to third to second and then to a clear first-place finish.
My camera all but forgotten, I leaned over the barrier and watched eagerly for his arrival. I needn't have worried about missing him – the roar of the crowd swept along with him as he closed in on the finish line. The sound grew louder and louder still, every possible noisemaker being improvised and then employed. Cheers and shouts which bordered on screams, megaphones used to amplify shouts of joy, inflatable "thundersticks" thwapped together to produce manic, percussive sounds. People clapped their hands and banged on the barriers, jumping up and down.
And then, there he was. I gathered my senses and snapped photos of him approaching the line, one arm raised over his head in a show of jubilation, complete and utter joy on his face.
Back at the hotel, I had two thorough goings-over at the same time. The team masseur worked his magic on my legs – cooling the fire smouldering just beneath my skin – while Jerzy tore into me with a restraint I'd never seen before.
"Grandstanding," he growled, pacing the length of the room. "Shameless grandstanding, Ciccio. I don't approve of such things. It could have cost you time."
"But it didn't," I said, looking up at him from the massage table.
He whirled around and narrowed one eye at me, his signal that I should shut up if I intended to keep all my most precious body parts. The masseur kept his head down and continued working as though the threat weren't hanging in the air amongst us.
"It could have, is what I said. Save the shows for when you join the circus."
The blood drained from my face as shame filled it. He was right. Sure, I'd managed a phenomenal lead – fifty-five seconds ahead of Brunn, forty seconds ahead of Schlessinger and Maxxout, who would be marking my ass as a personal vendetta for sure – but starting tomorrow, the stages would be longer and harder, and I wouldn't be on my own.
"Work with the team, Ciccio, not against them."
I nodded, chastened. Jerzy remained at the foot of the table, behind the masseur, and glared at me before storming off. The masseur glanced up at me with a sympathetic look and I closed my eyes, exhausted.
...we stood at the barriers along the road, along with other spectators waiting for the stage to begin.
The riders wouldn't race within the city limits. They'd ride slowly together behind a car full of Tour officials until they reached a more open part of the road. Everything would get off to a proper start then, likely with a group breaking away from the pack to try and gain time, while the rest sat back and waited for their chances closer to the finish.
As for us, once the riders had gone past, we'd check out of the hotel, then drive our rental car to Castro Verde, where the stage ended. I'd take pictures of the finish, and in the morning I'd photograph the opening of the next stage.
This was the plan for the next few weeks, too.
A ripple of applause made its way toward us, reaching a peak when the peloton passed. I smiled as Renard went by, clad in the royal-blue jersey which marked him as the Tour's current leader. I framed him carefully and took several successive shots while he raised his hand and waved at the crowd on my side of the road. An obviously disgruntled Jürgen Schlessinger of Team Maxxout rode alongside him.
A flare of excitement flashed through me and I continued taking photos of the rest of the pack as it streamed by, southward bound.
The whole event didn't last long. Even with all the behind-the-scenes 'mood' shots I'd captured, Charles and I had only been out for a couple of hours.
"Finally," he said with a sigh. "Now let's get our bags before someone steals them, and find some lunch before the restaurants close for some bloody siesta or something."
"There's plenty of time." I checked my watch for good measure. "It's barely twelve-thirty."
He shrugged and turned in the direction of the hotel. "Let's go to that pub again. It's English-owned and they had a nice fry-up listed on the menu. Could be worth trying."
Turning my head so he couldn't see me roll my eyes, I packed up my things. "If you say so, hon."
"I do." He took me by the crook of my elbow and led me through the crowd. "I suppose this whole travel thing isn't so bad, once you find decent places to eat."
"There are lots of great restaurants in Lisbon, Charles. You just have to be willing to try something different."
"And risk Montezuma's revenge? No thanks."
"That's what you call it in Mexico, I think," I offered in mild protest. A shake of his head dismissed me.
"It's all the same, darling. I don't doubt that some of this lot would do it on purpose."
"I think that's pretty unlikely. I mean, they'd lose business if that were the case."
"Not with the bloody Euro in the marketplace. Now they can do as they please without fear of losing their livelihood."
"You're talking like a businessman again. Couldn't we just play happy tourists and have fun?"
He held the door of the pub open and I stepped reluctantly inside.
"Maybe later," he said. "Right now, I want my fry-up, all right?"
"All right. But I'm having the cozido this time."
"Suit yourself – and best of luck to you."
While I warmed up with my teammates on the stationary trainers alongside the team bus, I puzzled over the lack of communication from Solange. Still no calls in response to mine. No messages, either. An unpleasant voice in the back of my mind insisted something was going on: she'd never gone so long without contacting me before.
When I noticed Rom watching me with open curiosity, I returned my focus to what I was doing. I couldn't afford distraction.
I thought about the route ahead for that afternoon. I closed my eyes and visualized the profile: a few gently undulating hills but mostly flat, with one climb once we were well out of Lisbon. The whole course would run about two-hundred kilometres. Remembering the day before, my mood lightened.
I could do this. I knew it.
Supporters watched while we warmed up, taking photos, calling out good wishes to us. I turned up the volume on my mp3 player and let the percussive techno beat drive me on. I looked up only when my trainer nudged me and motioned for me to adjust my position on the bike.
Shit. Focus, Renard.
I let the music play and narrowed my world to the rhythm of my feet on the pedals and to keeping myself steady on the bike. I concentrated until I didn't hear the music anymore, just the thrumming of energy passing through me to power the bike. My legs pistoned smoothly and the hum of my rear wheel reassured me of my steady pace. The longer I went, the better I felt and the clearer my head became.
"Come on, Abby," Charles said from where he lay under the covers, "let's go to sleep."
I looked at my watch; it was only seven p.m.
"I'm hungry." I stood and got my handbag. "I'm going out for a bite. Do you want me to bring anything up for you?"
Charles groaned in reply and rolled over.
"Fair enough. I'll be back soon."
Key in hand, I eased the door shut and went down to the hotel restaurant. I'd forgotten that the Spanish tend to dine late, with dinner beginning around nine at night. Most of the restaurants, including the one in the hotel, weren't even open yet. I certainly didn't want pub fare so I headed along the street in search of something light.
In the main plaza people mingled and chatted around the fountain and in the cafés and pubs. Fathers played with their children or sat with their wives (or girlfriends) sharing coffee or sweets at the outside café tables.
I felt decidedly out of place, flying solo as I was.
I bought an iced lemonade and sat on a bench in the plaza, wishing I had my camera. What wonderful shots I was missing!
The last of the summer evening light gave the plaza a nostalgic feel. The sepia-toned light cast soft shadows with an almost liquid texture in the fading heat of the day.
Finishing my drink, I decided to go and get my camera. Maybe I could still get some good photos after all. I hurried up to our room and slipped inside quietly, hoping Charles was asleep and would stay that way.
No such luck.
"You're back," he said sleepily.
I stopped, putting my camera bag back on the table. "I thought I might get some photos. It's a beautiful evening."
"No, no… Why don't you come to bed? You can get your little snaps in the morning."
I wanted to protest but I was in no mood to argue. Instead, I went to the window and pulled the curtains closed on the plaza.
My 'little snaps' would just have to wait.
With each crank of the pedals, liquid fire ran through my legs. My skin burned in the late afternoon heat radiating from the tarmac. A grimace carved itself into my face, a death's-head grin for exquisite suffering under the summer sun.
Up ahead, a motorcycle swayed to and fro, going slowly up the steep incline so the camera operator on board could keep filming. In its wake the crowd on either side of the road spilled toward us, swallowing us up in a constantly shifting, screaming mass of humanity – all of whom were too close for comfort.
All the usual chaos of a mountain stage on the Tour d'Europa.
The peloton had broken apart prior to the climb, with the leaders and the better climbers forging well ahead of the pack. The blur of colour and noise on either side of my head was lost to my tunnel vision and the sounds inside it.
"You're doing fine, Ciccio." The voice in my earpiece was Michael, our directeur sportif's-second-in command. "Once this climb is done it's straight down to the bottom for the stretch to Granada."
That we were doing well wasn't news to me. That it wasn't Jerzy's voice in my ear, however, was. Brunn had caught up with me after we'd cleared the previous, rather dodgy, descent, where I'd thought he was well behind me. Now he was recovering on my rear wheel and Rom and Attila were doggedly leading us up the hardest climb of today's stage.
I still had no intention of letting Brunn ride my slipstream all the way into Granada. His job – at least for now – was to help protect me and keep the Royal in my possession as long as possible.
Right now the greater threat was Schlessinger, coming up slowly alongside me. Maxxout's blue-green team colours stood out even in the confusion of the crowd surrounding us. I refused to look his way, knowing his smug expression awaited me.
There was a basso profundo shout from somewhere in the crowd as Schlessinger made a subtle gesture in my direction – something between a wave and an obscenity, I thought – and then he crept upward, first aligning himself with his support and then slyly sidling next to Rom.
I ducked to avoid a carelessly-handled German flag, and heard yet another guttural shout, this time cheering Brunn on. There was no point in responding, no sense in coming any further out of my trance. Some of these people cheered for all of us, which gave the riders the will to dig deeper and make the climb. Others were oblivious to the mayhem they caused while they mugged for the television cameras, and frankly, for the most part, so were we.
We only just made it into Granada before the end of the race. I changed quickly into my walking shorts and left Charles unpacking at the hotel before hurrying to the finish line, camera in hand, still hoping to salvage something of the day. The crowd was raucous and I knew something huge was happening. Fuming over my continued lack of credentials, I pushed through the crowd, trying to get close to the road.
Thanks to a generous group of Germans, I managed to squeeze up to the barriers where I could hold my camera out and snag some shots. I managed just a few as the breakaway group crossed the line, fighting for the stage win in a bunch sprint.
The chanting began soon after the sprint ended. It started out at a moderate tempo, accentuated by handclaps: "Brunn! Brunn! Brunn! Brunn!"
I looked up at the screens showing an overhead shot of the final stretch into Granada. Five cyclists – two of them in Alta VeloCidad's violet and grey colours, one in Maxxout's blue-green, one in the red and blue of Ligne Infinie and Renard in the distinct Royal jersey – had broken away from the peloton and were bearing down on the finish with all their might.
One in particular was swiftly pulling ahead.
At this, the chanting grew louder, and one of the Germans next to me began to pound out a steadily intensifying rhythm on the barrier ahead of us. With every thunderous whap of his hand on the plastic banner taped over the railing, my heart sank lower into my stomach.
"BRUNN! BRUNN! BRUNN! BRUNN!"
I looked up at the times on the screen above the road. Brunn had broken away from Renard and Schlessinger. As I watched the broadcast, the other rider in Alta VeloCidad's colours dropped back, head hung low, slowing while he drifted to the side of the course to wait for the peloton to pick him up. Renard's domestique was exhausted, unable to help him any more.
In spite of the late afternoon heat, my arms were covered in gooseflesh.
I didn't know why I wanted so much for Renard to win, but I did. I wanted it with all my heart.
As one, the crowd turned their attention away from the screen to watch Brunn's actual arrival. His name was no longer being chanted, the crowd was screaming it, the noise riotous and manic until my heart raced so hard I could barely keep my camera in hand. I managed to lean out across the barrier to capture his arrival. I squeezed the release and the shutter obligingly snapped shot after shot in quick succession as Brunn lifted his hands from the handlebars of the bike and waved to the tumultuous crowd, long before he crossed the line.
The sky grew dark, the clouds gathering for a late-afternoon shower. Photographers instinctively covered their precious cameras and other equipment as thunder rumbled and rain began to fall. I couldn't speak for the others, but I was slightly relieved. In the muggy mid-afternoon heat, the rain brought some relief after standing out on the tarmac for so long. The rainfall was short, but intense, over almost as quickly as it had begun, leaving shallow puddles to reflect the reemerging sunlight.
As the helicopters hovered overhead, harbouring the arrival of the riders, more photographers assembled until the lines of our designated box seemed completely arbitrary. A final few arrived at a dead run, one of them vaulting the barrier to take a place directly in front of me.
"Hey!" I jostled him out of my way, gesturing angrily toward the road and the line at my feet. He shook his head and made as though to take the spot again, before another man reached out for his arm and tugged him roughly to one side. I glanced over to find my supporter was the French photographer who had sneaked me inside the barriers a couple of days ago. He smiled warmly and gave me a wink and I couldn't help smiling in return.
The crowd noise ratcheted up a notch – or ten – and all of the photographers took their positions. Some lay on the ground sniper-style while others, like me, knelt precariously in a line, aiming our cameras down the final stretch. The rest stood waiting, ready to jump or shift as necessary to capture their shots.
A rising roar of excitement rolled toward us, chasing the bunch sprint as it thundered our way. The battle for the stage win was fierce, and even though I'd photographed a few finishes already, this was the first time I'd seen one from this point of view: through my lens, it seemed that they were barrelling straight toward me with no sign of slowing. Several riders skidded through the water still on the road, losing control of their bikes before they could slow down.
One moment I was taking photos of riders crossing the finish line, the next I was backing up and stumbling over the feet of one photographer and being knocked to the ground by the elbow of another.
I landed hard, breath wooshing out of my lungs even as I held my camera aloft in an attempt to protect it. I was aware of equipment scattered around me – lenses, battery packs, memory cards – some of it mine, some of it theirs. Then the base of a crowd-control barrier was at my back, the sharp metal edge of one foot biting into me.
Winded, I lay on the pavement, my eyes closed, one hand clutching my side as though I could press the pain so deep I wouldn't feel it any more. I was dizzy; taking quick, short breaths had pushed me to the point of hyperventilation.
A moment later the sun broke through the cloud, warming my face before shadow settled over me.
Brunn and I were riding at speed amongst the peloton, but the group containing the sprinters was well ahead of us, gunning for the finish at the end of this flat stage. From Valencia to Torreblanca, Alvaro had sparred with Teodoro, promising his own victory to even the score with his brother. Teodoro had instead assured us all of his own imminent victory, going so far as to predict a one-second gap at the finish.
Braggadocio, all of it – but the good-natured teasing between the brothers was enough to entertain the rest of us for the length of the stage.
A burst of shrieking and screaming across the team's radio frequency was difficult to comprehend. Either Jerzy had just slipped over the edge into insanity, or somewhere closer to the line, one or more of my teammates had made a tactical mistake.
Brunn glanced at me, his expression inscrutable, save for a flicker of concern in his eyes before he turned back to the matter at hand.
Listening to the invective spewing over the airwaves, I had the feeling things weren't exactly going according to plan at the finish.
We pressed forward, the final roundabout looming ahead when Attilio gave a shout and bumped shoulders with another rider who was riding too close as the curve tightened.
Rom broke through the last few cyclists blocking us and I followed close on his wheel, the two of us making our way up to the head of the pack to lead the group through the roundabout and down the short final stretch.
We breezed our way down Avinguda de Sant Jordi, avoiding the concrete lip of the island separating the lanes of the road, but other riders weren't so lucky, judging from the shouts of the crowd and the skree of titanium on pavement which followed the final turn.
Rom fell back behind me in short order and Brunn was soon at my shoulder, a slight grin on his face the only indication that he was pleased with how things had gone. As far as I could tell, there wasn't even a hint of curiosity regarding Jerzy's previous rant, not one iota of concern for Alvaro or Teodoro or for how they'd fared.
We'd find out soon enough.
I did my best to remain professional as Renard stepped out to receive his Royal for the stage. A strange melancholy came over me as he stepped off the podium and shook hands with the town officials and other guests, before making his way backstage.
I thought of his expression when he'd checked on me after the crash and felt a slow melting inside. Ridiculous. A schoolgirl's crush, and I was – what? – at least ten years older than he was. At least.
I made a mental note to look up his birthdate online when I got back to the hotel. Or maybe I'd look it up on my netbook from the bar before I went up to the room. I didn't really feel like enduring any snide comments from Charles when I returned to Barcelona.
Then again, maybe he wouldn't be making them anymore, now that I'd called him on his "phone mate" and everything.
Drifting back to my car, I paused as a shiver ran along my spine in a light, tingling caress. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I turned toward the Village, where the remainder of the crowd milled around just outside the team areas.
There was no-one there, but I would have sworn I'd felt his gaze on me, if just for a split second. I clucked my tongue dismissively. I'm getting dotty in my old age, I reckoned, and resumed my walk to the car.
When the feeling came again, I took out my camera, aimed it over my shoulder, and clicked the shutter. I'd examine the shot when I got to Barcelona.
James sat on the edge of the big bench, his head hung low, only chancing a glance at Jerzy as he moved away. He caught my eye and his expression was one of purest misery. He'd fucked up and he knew it.
And so did Jerzy.
"It was stupid! Careless! What the fuck were you thinking?"
"Jer-" Alvaro didn't get the chance to finish.
"Where was your focus? On your stupid jokes with your brother? When you race you aren't brothers, do you understand? You are teammates. You are riders, nothing more!"
A torrent of rather colourful Spanish followed, and Teodoro, seated next to James, winced.
Adrie was reflected in the back window of the bus even though he stood just out of my sight. When Jerzy turned on James, Adrie's arms were folded across his chest in the posture of someone about to be sick.
"Sloppy! I should send Goosh out there tomorrow in your place, if I only could. He'd do a better job, if that's the best you can do. You had it! You fucking had it, and then you let the American get it? The American? It's his first fucking Tour and your third, and you still let him by? You fucking Brits are useless!"
I couldn't bear to watch any more but I couldn't avoid hearing it.
"Did you see how he was riding?" Adrie shouted back, and the murmur of conversation in the main cabin of the bus silenced. "It was too dangerous to hold the line, Jerzy. If James hadn't let him go, he'd have taken the whole lot of us out! The pack was too goddamn tight!"
"I watched the video, Adrie. I watched it. Where the fuck was your defence?"
"I shouldered as hard as I could, and he came back with more," Adrie answered calmly. "That little fucker is crazy. The finish was suicidal in that last turn – you saw how many got taken out by the kerb – and, frankly, I thought I'd like to end the stage without a busted collarbone or a broken neck."
Another silence, this time including the group at the back of the bus. Only Brunn had ever been so bold with Jerzy in the past, and he got a special pass by being his best friend.
"You've been drinking...?" Charles put his cell phone on the bedside table and gave me a quizzical look.
"Not much. Just a little wine with dinner. You know, as you do." I shrugged and went through my suitcase, digging out my nightgown and slippers.
"Are you upset about something?"
The disingenuousness of the question was insulting.
"Charles, how do you play at ignorance so well?"
"Come on, Abby." He stood and came over to my side of the bed to stare down at me while I changed clothes.
"You can't honestly be this oblivious." I looked up and met his eyes, daring him to pretend further.
Instead, he returned to his side of the bed. After a moment's silence, he sank down onto the bed and sighed. "This is why I thought we should consider…"
"I've already told you why I don't want that." I got under the coverlet, and Charles kept his back to me.
"I'd just feel better, Abby, if I thought you had someone with you when I'm away."
"No, you'd feel better if I said you could have someone with you when you're away. That's what this is all about."
"No, it isn't."
"For all I know, you already have."
I turned onto my side and resisted the urge to sigh, too.
"I didn't want you to feel this way about it," he said.
"How else would I feel? You're talking about taking a lover." I turned to face him and found him staring at the carpet, shaking his head. "And me, giving you the okay."
"No, I'm not."
My throat tightened and I got out of bed. I stood up straight and smoothed down my nightgown, trying to keep my hand from shaking. I held up the other hand and started counting off: "You put down the phone when I come in the room, you stay late at work even if you don't have to, and you get more phone calls than you need from work…"
"That's not proof of anything, Abby. Circumstantial at best."
"Give me time..." I gathered my clothes and piled them into the laundry bag. "I'm sure I'll dig up ample evidence soon enough."
Charles said nothing, just exhaled softly behind me. I got back into bed and pulled the blanket up to my shoulder after putting my back to him. Silence stretched out between us until he switched off the light and lay down.
The pub was practically empty and I wasn't really surprised. The team made up the majority of the patronage of the hotel, and most of them were either with their families or attending the festivities in the city centre.
The server led us to a circular booth in one corner. I liked the enforced privacy of the set-up right away. Between the high edges of the booth seat, the plentiful greenery scattered around the top and the low lighting in the pub, there was little chance of someone spotting us.
Abby ordered a white wine and the server looked expectantly at me.
"Una birra, per favore," I said, figuring today I'd earned at least a beer.
We sat in silence, which gave me a chance to consider a few things. First, there was the fact I'd repeatedly run into Abigail in the pubs. The second thing was that I always found her alone, in spite of her claim she was married. I'd yet to see this phantom husband, though she said he'd somehow played a part in her photographing the Tour.
Any mention of her husband saddened her – that much was clear. When we discussed the stage, or I told her about events on the road, her mood improved. Every time she laughed – or even just smiled – I felt myself getting drawn in deeper than ever.
This is bad. Very, very bad.
My heart clenched tight with understanding: married woman or no, I wanted her. Never mind the Solange debacle. Never mind her mythical Charles, wherever he was. I wanted Abigail White, and I couldn't have her.
"Federico? What are you thinking?"
I had to laugh. Why do women always ask that? If men were ever honest enough to answer with the truth, women would never come near us again.
"What's so funny?" she asked. "Tell me."
"You really don't want to know."
"Sure I do."
Her wide eyes searched mine, and I had no choice but to be honest. Maybe it would be best if she did go away.
"For a while I was thinking about the next stage," I said. "Then I thought about how I keep finding you alone in these places. Then I wondered where your husband really is. And then…?" I shrugged, hoping to make light of my next thought. "I started thinking how much I want to kiss you."
I looked down at my drink, not wanting to see her disappointment. I'd had enough of that in the past week to last me a lifetime.
Well, there you have them: 13 Snippets from 27 Stages
- due out this summer (or sooner, if I can manage it)!I sure hope you've enjoyed them.And in addition to all the lovely photos accompanying these excerpts, I'll share one more pretty photo.Of course, it's of my favorite cyclist, who provided much of the inspiration for the story.And you know what?I reckon many of you will understand why that is.
Fabian Cancellara, Swiss cyclist. General hottie.
Ciao for now!
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! Welcome back for another Thursday Thirteen! This week, I'm featuring an interview with another friend and former member of the Authonomy elite, Cameron Chapman. Cameron is one of those multi-talented types you hear about, an honest-to-goodness triple-threat: Writer, Blogger and Filmmaker/Director. She's got some interesting projects on the go right now, and I thought you might enjoy meeting her, too.
So now, without further ado, please allow me to share
13 Questions for Cameron Chapman!
1) First, the usual sort of thing: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m an author, blogger, and aspiring filmmaker from northern New England. I’ve been writing professionally for more than five years now (it’s my primary source of income), and really got into filmmaking a couple years ago. I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember, though. 2) Since you live in a somewhat rural area, do you find this affects your creativity? Is your work influenced by your surroundings, or do you create solely from a universe in your head?
A little of both, actually. I take a lot of inspiration from my environment, so I need to live somewhere interesting, whether that’s a rural area or the city (the suburbs and I do not get along). The slower pace of life where I live makes it easier to find time to create. And I also live in an area with a ton of creative people, which is nice. There’s a real sense of support and community. People don’t look at you like you’re an alien when you tell them you write or you make films. Okay, some do, but they’re the minority. 3) What was your first creative effort you shared with others?
The first thing I shared with people outside of immediate family was a novel that eventually became the inspiration for The Steam and Steel Chronicles
, my steampunk novella series. That was shared on Authonomy, at the behest of a couple of other writers (who I’m still friends with even though I’m no longer active on the site). (note: The Steam and Steel Chronicles include the novellas Aboard the Unstoppable Aerostat Fenris, The Great Healion Race, and The Quest for the Demon Disconcerter. They are also available on BarnesandNoble.com.)4) What are you focusing on more, now? Articles? Novels? Films?
All of the above! I can’t just have one project going. I’m currently working on edits for the final novella in The Steam and Steel Chronicles
. After that I have another novel I wrote a couple years ago that’s in desperate need of some editing. I just signed a book deal for another non-fiction design book, so that’s going to be taking up a chunk of my time for the next few months. I’m working on a music video for a friend’s band, as well as a script for a no-budget feature film. And I’m writing articles and blogging full-time, still.
...regardless of the medium, I’m going to keep telling stories.
5) What project are you most proud of, today?
That’s a tough one! I’m pretty proud of the short film I just released, This is all you left me
. I’m also really proud of the women’s fiction novel I wrote a couple years ago, Hold My Hand
. But really, I’m proud of pretty much everything I’ve put out there. 6) Do you listen to music when you're working?
Always. I create playlists for different projects (you can find some of them on my YouTube channel). It’s been interesting working on this music video, because it means I’m listening to that one song sometimes ten or fifteen (or more) times a day when I’m brainstorming. I think my ability to listen to songs on repeat for hours is just a sign that I’m meant to make music videos! For other projects, I find songs that fit the mood of the story and listen to them when I want to get into the right mood. 7) Who do you consider your influences in each field?
Neil Gaiman is probably the biggest inspiration to me in terms of writing. He’s done a little of everything: novels, comics, children’s books, TV and movies, etc. I’d love a career that has that kind of breadth. His novel Neverwhere
was a huge influence on me as a teenager. I’m also a big Stephen King fan, and I love Jeffrey Lent, too. In terms of filmmaking, I have a ton of influences. I love Rob Zombie’s directing, particular The Devil’s Rejects
, which is funny since I have no interest in directing horror. I love Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, Sophia Coppola, Christopher Nolan, Peter Jackson, and plenty of others. 8) Do you ever try to "shut down" to recharge your creative batteries, so to speak? Or do you just keep going 24/7?
Very, very rarely I have to take a break from doing creative things and unplug. But that’s only every few months. Otherwise, I’m creating every day. It’s just how I operate. I’m not happy if I’m not doing something productive. 9) Which of your projects was the most difficult to produce? Why? The Steam and Steel Chronicles
has been challenging, mostly because of the time commitment. I’d never done a series before, so taking on a project that is literally taking years to complete has been a little daunting. But I try to push the envelope and challenge myself with each new thing I take on, so each new project is more difficult than the last (at least in theory).
10) How valuable is peer evaluation to you?
It’s a bell curve for me. When I first start out with a new creative endeavor or project, I tend to keep it hidden from everyone. Once I get more comfortable with it, then I embrace feedback from peers. I rarely get my feelings hurt by constructive criticism (okay, there was a person on Authonomy who once made me cry, but not intentionally). Once I get toward the end of a particular project, or once I get more confident in my own abilities in a particular field, then I don’t seek out peer review as much. I have a few key people I value feedback from, but other than that, I go with my own instincts about whether something is good or not.
11) If you could do any project over again, which one would it be, and how would you change it?
I’m not big on revisiting old projects. Once it’s done, it’s done in my mind. I release it into the world and honestly try to forget about it as much as possible. I do have some unreleased manuscripts sitting on my hard-drive that I’d like to rewrite and publish at some point, but other than that, there aren’t really any projects I’d like a do-over on.
12) What is your dream project?
I would love to do a feature film with recognizable talent. I would love to work with someone like Johnny Depp or Jennifer Lawrence or Rachel Weisz or Hugh Jackman. On a slightly more realistic level, I have a script I would love to produce and direct that could be done on a very small budget, and there’s a particular person (Shannon Leto) I would love to star in it. Not sure if that one’s ever going to happen either, but a girl can dream!
13) What's on the horizon for you?
I’ve got a ton of projects coming up. Filmmaking has really become my passion. But I love writing, too. I’m a storyteller at heart, and regardless of the medium, I’m going to keep telling stories.
I hope you enjoyed this interview with this very talented lady.
And I know you're expecting something else special here, too,
And I reckon Cameron won't mind too much, either.
Doesn't just about everyone love a little Johnny Depp?
Ciao for now!
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! Since everyone is going to be doing Valentine's-themed posts today, I thought I'd take things in a slightly different direction. I know a lot my viewers are writers, you see, and they write in all genres and styles (which is why I love them all), but if there's one thing most writers have in common, it's the need for discipline and dedication, inspiration and focus.
So today, I present to you:
13 Images of What YOU Should Be Doing, Right Now!
It's a dilemma, indeed.
Feeling motivated yet?
I know I sure am!
So now, I'd better get to work.
Stories to write, imagination to plunder, all that sort of thing.
Even my imagination needs a little boost.
Don't forget to pick a flower before you go!
Happy Valentine's Day, ladies!
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! Welcome back! This week, I've been perusing the 'net (as usual), and a lovely idea for a post struck me. So this week, I'm sharing with you:
Thirteen Photos I Didn't Take -
But I Wish I Had!
From the Parco Nazionale dell'Appennino Tosco Emiliano site on Facebook. Caption reads: "Appennino Reale : battuti i tracciati dall’Abetina Reale, Febbio, Pianvallese, Rescadore e tra Abetina Reale e Piandelagotti."
View of Pietra di Bismantova, province of Reggio Emilia, Italy. Shared on Facebook.
Fabian Cancellara prepares for the Team Time Trial in the Tour of Qatar. Mercy. You *know* I'd like to grab that, uh, shot myself.
Webcam view of sunset beyond Pietra di Bismantova, looking out from Felina, Italy.
John Northrup's photo taken from Mt. LeConte, Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee.
Trees in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee; photo by Brian Shults.
View of Pietra di Bismantova from Castelnovo ne' Monti, Italy. Shared on Facebook by Stefano Guerri.
Torrechiara Castle, province of Parma, Italy. Shared by Emilia-Romagna Tourism on Facebook.
Statue of Neptune, Bologna, Italy. Shared by BOLOGNA on Facebook.
Cabins on Mt. Le Conte. Photo by Josh Branson, shared on Facebook.
View captured on Hwy 441 by Tre Cunningham Dossey. Shared on Facebook.
Gary Wilson of Great Smoky Mountains Association shared this photo of a sunset on the snow covered peaks taken from right under Cliff Tops on Mt LeConte. (via Facebook)
Photo from my mother's porch. Taken by my darlin' friend, Cristy Worley.
And there you have them: Thirteen Photos I Didn't Take - But I Wish I Had!
I hope you've enjoyed them all.
They make me aspire to greater photographic achievements whenever I look at them.
They make me yearn to learn more about the craft of photography.
They make me want to work harder to get unforgettable shots.
But, you know...
There's magic in those everyday moments, too.
Ciao for now!
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! It's been another busy week here at Casa Menozzi, but I've pulled together a Thursday Thirteen list I hope you'll enjoy. Because that's what this one is all about: Enjoying!
So without further ado, please allow me to present to you:
Thirteen Songs I Forgot I Enjoyed!
1) "Glad All Over" - the Dave Clark Five
The giddy joy of the British Invasion sound? Yes, please! Thank you!
2) "She's Not There" - The Zombies
I've loved this song since I was a teenager (in the '80s, thank you). I just...do.
3) "You're No Good" - Linda Ronstadt
Her cover of this classic, soulful song is a classic itself.
4) "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" - Paula Cole
Bitterness, brokeness, pure despair put to music. A song about what happens when you get what you wanted, but didn't really quite think it through to begin with.
5) "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song" - Jim Croce
For everyone who has ever tried to share their feelings with someone they loved, and found simple words inadequate.
6) "Possum Kingdom" - the Toadies
Creepy. Icky. Fascinating.
7) "Buddy Holly" - Weezer
I like the goofiness of it. So sue me.
8) "White Rabbit" - Jefferson Airplane
Another one I've loved since high school (I was a big fan of '60s music during the '80s). Trippy. And it blew my husband's mind to learn this was the same band (moreso that it was the same singer) to record "We Built This City" and "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" nearly twenty years later.
9) "Let's Live for Today" - The Grass Roots
I saw them in concert (supporting the Monkees) in the '80s. They were still darned good, too. I played this song until the tape I'd made broke.
10) "Wonderwall" - Oasis
I'm pretty sure this is the only song by Oasis that I genuinely like. (I was more a Pulp fan, after the whole BritPop thing had concluded. During it, I was more a Blur fan. I still prefer Pulp and Blur - but mostly Pulp. I could do a whole list of favorite Pulp songs.)
11) "Take Me to the Pilot" - Elton John
Rockin' it old school with Reggie.
12) "I Melt With You" - Modern English
My husband had never heard this song before. I amended that as soon as I could.
13) "Runaway" - Del Shannon
Just turn it up and enjoy.
And there you go: for better or worse, 13 Songs I Forgot I Enjoy!
Are any of these on your mixtapes or MP3 players?
Will you put 'em on there now?
I promised an extra piece of eye candy last week since I didn't share any after my interview with Robb Grindstaff.
So, naturally, I've done my best to follow through.
As you surely know by now...
I always do my best to keep my promises.
Ciao for now!
Ciao a tutti! Hello, everybody! You know what? It's that time of year again - time for me to drag out a few more corrections on the grammar front! I keep hoping these posts will become unnecessary, but, alas, they do not.
So this week, I must present to you
13 (MORE!) Frequently Misused/Confused Words
1) Formerly and Formally -
Formerly means what something (or someone) *used* to be.
ex: the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.
Formally means with ceremony or with respect:
We were introduced formally at the reception.
2) too, to, two -
to: from one point to another point in time or space
two: the number 2.
3) infer/imply -
To infer means to take information and come to a conclusion.
To imply means to subtly give evidence to lead someone to a conclusion.
The television series The Big Bang Theory illustrated this well. Toward the end of the clip below, around 1:35, this exchange takes place:
Zack: I don't get it.
Leonard: A dolphin might.
Zack: Oh, I see. You guys are inferring that I'm stupid.
Sheldon: That's not correct. We were implying it. You then inferred it.
4) Exciting and Exiting -
Exciting: a person, place or thing which stirs excitement in an individual. Exiting: the act of leaving a place; to go out from someplace or something.
"I don't know why you're exiting this exciting online conversation!"
"Dude, I gotta PEE!"
5) As a general rule, it's Grammar, not Grammer.
If you're talking about writing, speaking and so on, you want to use proper grammar. You always want to get an "A" (two, actually) in grammar!
Now, if you're talking about the star of the television series Frasier?
6) Principle and Principal -
Principle is a noun, referring to a fundamental standard, law, rule or doctrine. It only means this.
Principal can be a noun with many different meanings (the principal of a school; the amount of financing; the primary person in a given role - acting or otherwise; and so on), an adjective meaning of the greatest significance or importance ("My principal objection is to the blatant sexism shown here!"), or even an adverb, "principally", meaning "for the most part".
7) It's Separate NOT Seperate -
Separate in its verb form means to part or divide, to section off. In its adjective form, it describes something cut off from other things, set apart.
Seperate means NOTHING!!! IT IS NOT A WORD!
Just remember: There's always "A RAT" in a "SepARATion"!
8) It's Milquetoast, not "Milk Toast" -
The term "milquetoast" is used to described an ineffectual and timid person, someone unlikely to raise a fuss in any circumstance. It is derived from the name of a comic strip character from the 1920s. Which character? Well, I'm going to cheat here and use Wikipedia:
"Caspar Milquetoast was a comic strip character created by H. T. Webster for his cartoon series, The Timid Soul. Webster described Caspar Milquetoast as "the man who speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick". The character's name is a deliberate misspelling of the name of a bland and fairly inoffensive food, milk toast. Milk toast, light and easy to digest, is an appropriate food for someone with a weak or "nervous" stomach.So:
Milquetoast (see how meek and mild he is?)
9) Expatriate not Ex-patriot -
I'm sure you've heard me call myself this from time to time, most likely using the abbreviation "Expat".
An expatriate is someone who lives in a country other than the one they are born in, whether temporarily or permanently. It derives from the Latin words "ex" (out of) and "patria" (country, fatherland).
Ex-patriot doesn't exist. It's not a word.
Well, unless you're referring to a former member of the New England Patriots Football team.
Rodney Harrison. And yes, I totally had to Google "Former New England Patriot" to find something for this.
10) Supposedly not supposably -
Both of these terms are adverbs, derived from the word "supposed". However, there is still a lot of debate about the veracity of "supposably" (and as I write this, it keeps getting highlighted as an error).
Supposed means to assume something for the sake of argument, or to consider something to be truth. So, "supposedly" can mean an action is expected to turn out a certain way.
"Suppose we were to just take that short cut. What's the worst that could happen?"
"Supposedly, we could get lost in the woods, that's what! I'm not doing it!"
Supposably simply means that something is conceivable. And aside from the whole "i before e, except after c (or sounded as 'a' as in neighbor and weigh)" thing, "conceivable" is probably the better word to use if that is what you're trying to convey.
11) Breath and breathe -
Breath is a noun and means the air taken in or expelled by the lungs.
Breathe is a verb, and means to take air in and then expel it from the lungs.
"He has such bad breath. I wish he wouldn't breathe on me!"
12) Council and counsel -
Council: A group of people gathered to regulate or advise others.
Counsel: to give advice.
"The council gave fair counsel on the subjects at hand."
13) Hoard and horde -
"Hoard" is a noun, referring to a collection of something for future use, and as a verb, to "Hoard" is to collect obsessively.
A "Horde" is a large number of people, frequently used in reference to invading armies.
And there you have them: 13 MORE Frequently Misused/Confused Words.
I hope this has proven helpful for some of you.
At the very least, I hope it was mildly entertaining.
Now I need to take a little break and get on with some writing.
Feel free to come back from time to time if you need a refresher, of course.
Or, you know...
Ciao for now!
Ciao a tutti! Hello everybody! Welcome to this week's Thursday Thirteen! This time around, I've decided to a "Greatest Hits", of a sort. I thought I'd share a collection of what is, for many visitors to this site, a highlight of their visit (or, in some cases, the reason they drop by in the first place).
So please, allow me to present:
Thirteen Pieces of Eye Candy from 2012!
In November, the post 13 Random Images
concluded with this shot of rugby player Dimitri Yachvili.
Also in November, I shared this lounging beauty along with 13 Things I Need to Do
. (No, he wasn't on the list.)
So there you have it: a recap of some of the finest eyecandy I had on offer in 2012!
I hope you've enjoyed this stroll down memory lane.
And if you need still more incentive to drop by, well...
I hope this will do!
Ciao for now!
Ciao a tutti! Thanks to a busy day yesterday, and preparing for a brief visit from a guest today, I hadn't quite prepared anything for this week's Thursday Thirteen. So here's a glimpse into the chaos of my surroundings, at the moment, instead.
Please allow me to present to you:
Thirteen Objects on my Desk!
1) A Concise English Desk Reference Dictionary.
2) A 3-Disc Collectors' Edition of Spaced.
3) My eyeglasses cleaning cloth.
4) My camera.
5) A packet of tissues. ('tis the season for runny noses, eh?)
6) My old day planners from last year and the year before. I have no idea why.
7) A book bag with this image and saying on it.
(It says: A cat would never sleep on a mediocre book.)
8) My Kindle ereader.
9) My denim purse.
10) My Paddington Bear keychain (from London).
11) My medicine for my itchy skin rash.
12) My mobile phone.
13) A copy of 501 Italian Verbs. I really need to study. ...sigh...
And there you go. A fascinating glimpse into this writer's life.
I sincerely hope you've enjoyed it.
It's form of anthropology, in a way, I suppose.
Maybe not. I dunno.
It's getting hard to think, as it's cold now and I want a cup of tea and a book.
Or maybe getting active is the best solution?
Ciao for now!